Jussie Smollett Loses Malicious-Prosecution Counterclaim Against Chicago

Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett, center, arrives for an initial court appearance on Feb. 24, 2020, at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

CHICAGO (CN) — A federal judge dismissed actor Jussie Smollett’s malicious prosecution claim against Chicago, which claimed the city knew he was the victim of a hate crime, but accused him of lying anyway.

Last year, the city sued Smollett in Cook County Circuit Court under its false statements and cost recovery ordinances to get back the $130,000 it says it spent for 1,836 hours of police overtime in investigating his claims. The case has since been transferred to federal court.

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, continues stand by his story that two men attacked him on a Chicago street on a late night in January 2019, yelling homophobic and racist slurs, pouring bleach on him and putting a rope around his neck.

However, based on statements from two brothers, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo who say they helped stage the attack, the Chicago Police Department determined it was a hoax.

But after bringing 16 felony charges against Smollett, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office abruptly dropped the case just two weeks later. This deal was roundly criticized, and has severely hurt Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s reelection bid.

The city then sued Smollett to recover the $130,000 it spent investigating the case, and Smollett filed a malicious prosecution counterclaim.

A few months later, a special prosecutor filed a new indictment against the actor based on the same event. Smollett pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, a federal judge tossed Smollett’s counterclaim, finding the police had plenty of evidence to prosecute Smollett in the original case.

“Given the Osundairo Brothers’ confession, plus corroborating evidence, there was ample probable cause causing a person of ordinary care and prudence to believe or to entertain an honest and sound suspicion that the accused committed the offense charged,” U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall said. “As there is probable cause, there can be no malice.”

Smollett claims that the Osundairo brothers’ confession was made in the 47th hour of a two-day interrogation, and was intended to help them avoid criminal charges of their own.

“To this day, Mr. Smollett does not know what involvement, if any, the Osundairo brothers had in the attack on him,” the actor’s counterclaim said, adding that “CPD told the Osundairo brothers that they would go free if they implicated Mr. Smollett.”

Kathleen Fieweger, a spokesperson for the Chicago Law Department, said in a statement, “We are pleased with the judge’s decision to dismiss Mr. Smollett’s counterclaims, which had no merit. We will continue with ongoing efforts to recover our costs.”

Smollett’s attorney William Quinlan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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